Keeping Dad Healthy

Standing among the ranks of the Supermans and the Captain Americas of the world is another type of hero: Dad.

He may possess no other worldly superpowers (other than a fail-proof ability to open even the most difficult jars) and he wields no weapons (except the mighty grill tongs! and his trusty nine iron!), but he is mighty.

There is a lot to love about Dads.

We all want to keep the men in our lives healthy and happy. And it’s a good thing we pay attention to their health and happiness, because just like they forget to put a new toilet paper roll on a bald dispenser, they forget about themselves too. Men are significantly more likely than women to forgo regular visits to a health practitioner, and significantly more likely to ignore that gnarly looking toenail, or that heart flutter, or even their feelings.

Along with that bad habit of ignoring potential health issues, men also have some other bad habits… Below is a short list of the three worst bad habits that are especially particular to men. Not that women are invulnerable to these habits, so you listen up too, ladies!

1. Too Much Sitting

While our men are out there earning the bacon, they are doing a whole lot of sitting. “Sitting is the smoking of our generation”, it’s been said due to deleterious effects of excessive seat warming.

We used to think a sedentary job was bad just because it was correlated with less physical activity, but we’re now discovering that even if those individuals with desk jobs go H.A.M. at the gym 3-4 times per week, their health still suffers. That doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t good for you- it definitely is. It just means that it can’t undo day after day of sitting.

Scientists haven’t completely figured out why sitting is so bad for us but some hypothesize that sitting inhibits proper blood flow and compresses vital organs. Increased sitting is linked to obesity, heart disease, and even premature death.

The Remedy: Sitting breaks and skin brushing.

Obviously, the solution to excessive sitting is to sit less. While regular challenging exercise that increases your heart rate is essential to good health, what we’re talking about is separate from that. Challenge Dad to sit less. Help him look into a standing desk, or get him to set a timer on his phone or computer that reminds him to stand up, have a quick stretch, walk, or jig, at regular intervals. Experts suggest taking a break from sitting every thirty minutes.

Dry skin brushing, performed with a natural bristle body brush (come find them at the Wholistic Dispensary!) is another way to move the fluids in the body independently of exercise. Starting at your feet, use short, light strokes and brush towards the heart. Perform on legs, buttocks, torso, arms, shoulders, and neck. Dry skin brushing encourages the circulation of the blood and the lymph, and moves some of that stagnant fluid around after a day of bum compressing.

2. Bottling Up Emotions

It is a stereotype, but it’s also a statistic. Men are less emotionally open than women. Although this is slowly starting to change in some cultures, traditionally, men talking about their feelings or revealing fears and insecurities was viewed as un-masculine or as a sign of weakness.

Now, while I know very few women who prefer a man who is “a crier”, I think all women appreciate a man who is in touch with his emotions. Probably because they tend to be better partners, and heck, probably better human beings too.

Many experts believe that it is partly due to this tendency to plug up feelings that contributes to men’s high rates of depression, alcohol abuse, and death from suicide, not to mention stress-related physical ailments like high blood pressure. Combined with the above mentioned issue of a reduced likelihood to seek help, this is a dangerous cocktail.

The Remedy: Deep breathing exercises and stress reducing herbs like rhodiola.

Help remove the stigma by encouraging the men in your life to talk. For those men who just can’t seem to open up, a less literal way of releasing emotion and bringing in peace can be used. One of my favourite stress management practices is deep breathing exercises. The action of belly deep breaths stimulates the vagus nerve, a major component of our nervous system that, when stimulated, reduces stress and anxiety and boosts mood. For more on how to perform deep breathing, click here.

Many herbs can be used to reduce the damaging effects of chronic stress like too much cortisol, as well as boost favourable mood-elevating neurotransmitters like serotonin. Rhodiola, a herb famous for its use as a performance enhancer in Russian Olympians, does just that. Rhodiola is a primary herb for combating the effects of stress, whether it be psychological or physical stress. In addition to improving physical performance (bait Dad with the promise of being able to lift more at the gym), research supports that rhodiola can alleviate mild to moderate depression and reduces generalized anxiety, likely through its serotonin-boosting effects.

3. Too Much Alcohol

University students are not the only ones funneling back beer. Ok, so maybe Dad has ditched the actual funnel, but there’s a chance that his “beer belly” is actually made of literal beer.

Men are more likely to imbibe more often and in larger quantities than women. They are more likely to binge drink and are more likely to be involved in accidents related to it. And yes, these statistics are true for men in the “above 25” age bracket.

Of course, excessive alcohol use doesn’t necessarily have to be as dramatic as binge drinking or alcoholism. It could be as simple as the 2-3 beers consumed every night during the game or with supper. Regular alcohol consumption, even when it seems relatively moderate, is linked to increased risks of all kinds of diseases including cardiovascular disease, dementia, liver disease, psychiatric problems, and gastrointestinal issues.

The Remedy: More water and liver herbs like milk thistle, artichoke, and dandelion.

If Dad craves an ice cold beer before dinner or while barbequing on a hot day, his craving may be a simple matter of dehydration. Encourage Dad to drink a big glass of cold filtered water and then wait 5 minutes to see if he still wants that beer. If he is craving a drink to “unwind”, see my second point about managing emotions and stress. Figuring out the “why” of a drinking pattern is the first step to changing it. Does he want alcohol simply because it’s habit, or is there a deeper issue going on?

Alcohol is partly so damaging because of the burden it puts on the liver. A congested liver means that it has a reduced ability to do the hundreds of tasks it needs to do, like manage cholesterol, support the immune system, and balance blood sugar, among other things. This is why poor liver health can negatively affect so many aspects of health and increase the risk of so many diseases.

Luckily, nature has provided us with mountains of liver-loving foods and herbs. A great herbal triple-threat for liver support is milk thistle, dandelion, and artichoke. Milk thistle helps to protect and regenerate liver cells, dandelion encourages bile flow to keep toxins moving out of the body, and artichoke stimulates the gallbladder (which is the liver’s BFF and shares part of its heavy workload). Many liver formulas contain all three. Pop into the dispensary and we can help you pick out a formula!

Do you recognize any of these habits in the men in your life?

With buckets of love (and a pinch of nag) we can help contribute to our Dads’ health and happiness. And with that greater sense of wellbeing and energy, maybe they will finally be compelled to replace that damn toilet paper roll.

Happy Father’s Day! We love you, Dads!